Penn State Defends Football Player After a Letter Called His Dreadlocks ‘Disgusting’

Pennsylvania State College, a Large Ten faculty and residential of the vaunted Nittany Lions, rushed to shield considered one of its soccer gamers this week after he reportedly won a letter from an alumnus complaining concerning the athlete’s dreadlocks.

“We couldn’t assist however realize your — smartly — terrible hair,” mentioned the letter to the participant, Jonathan Sutherland. “Indisputably there should be mirrors within the locker room! Don’t you could have oldsters or female friend who’ve informed you the ones shoulder period dreadlocks glance disgusting and are by no means horny.”

The letter was once shared on Twitter on Monday through Mr. Sutherland’s teammate Antonio Shelton. “Provide an explanation for to me how this isn’t racist,” Mr. Shelton wrote.

Penn State condemned the content material of the letter in a tweet on Monday, and its soccer trainer, James Franklin, praised Mr. Sutherland at a news conference day after today.

“Jonathan Sutherland is among the Most worthy gamers in our program,” Mr. Franklin mentioned. “He’s without equal instance of what our program is all about. He’s a captain. He’s a dean’s listing honors pupil. He’s assured, he’s articulate, he’s clever, he’s considerate, he’s worrying and he’s dedicated.”

Mr. Sutherland, who’s a junior protection at the group and a hard work and employment family members main at Penn State, in line with its roster, also responded to the letter on Tuesday.

“Yesterday I received a letter by an alumni from the Pennsylvania State University who felt the need to share his degrading opinions in regards to my hair and what it stands for,” he wrote on Twitter. “Even supposing the message was once certainly impolite, ignorant and judging, I’ve taken no private offense to it as a result of for my part, I should admire you as an individual prior to I admire your opinion.”

He additionally mentioned he had forgiven the letter author, mentioning Colossians three:13.

The author of the letter, which was once signed with the title “Dave Petersen,” may now not be reached on Wednesday.

The Tribune-Democrat, an area newspaper, identified the writer as David Petersen, a Johnstown, Pa., resident who graduated from Penn State in 1966. Mr. Petersen told the newspaper that he had not been making a statement about race or culture.

“It wasn’t threatening or anything,” he said. “I was just disgruntled about some of the hairdos that we’re seeing. You think of Penn State as a bunch of clean-cut guys. And you do see so many who are clean cut. But the tattoos and the hair — there are a lot of guys with hair coming down their backs and it just looks awful. And it’s the same for the N.F.L. and N.B.A., too.”

Mr. Sutherland and Mr. Shelton did not immediately respond to emails seeking comment on Wednesday.

Black people have long been discriminated against, ostracized or punished for hairstyles consistent with their natural hair textures, such as Afros or dreadlocks. The letter seemed to perpetuate that stigma.

“My wife and I are proud ‘older’ graduates of Penn state,” it said, adding that the writer had played sports but “never had the size or the talent to reach your level.”

“Though the athletes of today are certainly superior to those in my days; we miss the clean cut young men and women from those days,” the letter continued.

It went on to criticize professional football players as well.

“We have stopped watching the N.F.L.,” it said, citing “disgusting” tattoos, “awful hair and immature antics in the end zone,” and adding, “Players should act as though they’ve ‘been there before.’”

Penn State could not verify the authenticity of the letter, it said in its statement on Monday. “Clearly its content material does now not align with our values,” it added. “We strongly condemn this message or any message of intolerance.”

At a information convention ultimate month, a reporter asked Mr. Sutherland if his hairstyle was important to him.

“I’ve had my hair for like 10 years now, going on 10 years,” he said. “I feel like it’s become a part of my identity at this point. When I was a kid, my mom just braided my hair one day, and I just went with it.”

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